TESTOSTERONE Issues in Maturing Men
Unfortunately, the older we get, the less of it our bodies make and the more of it our fat cells turn into estrogen. Testosterone injections and testosterone patches promise to bring a man back into his prime, but sometimes there are other ways to deal with low t.
In this piece we look at the issues men in the throes of mid-life face with the hormone.
Testosterone is the Male Sex Hormone – but what else does it do?
Most of a man’s testosterone is made in the testes, the “nuts” inside the sac of the man’s oval organs. It’s the hormone that both makes hair fall out of the scalp (if you have genes for male pattern baldness) and hair grow under the arm pits, around the penis, and all over the body in furrier males.
Testosterone fuels the growth of muscle mass and it also fuels aggression. It activates the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain and the adrenal glands, to produce hormones that release an energy boost when a man’s dominance is challenged, but that’s not all.
A man’s emotional state can determine his testosterone levels. Meeting a woman for the first time increases his levels, causing him to compete with other male suitors. Men are actually more attracted to “girly” characteristics when their levels are high. And more attracted to “motherly” characteristics when testosterone levels are low.
The Effects on Women
Women are more attracted to outward signs of testosterone, like men’s facial hair for example, when their estrogen levels are higher, as in the first half of the period up until ovulation, or when they are taking estrogen replacement therapy.
Love Lowers his t
Falling in love lowers testosterone levels in men, making him less aggressive toward his intended. No so with females. Falling in love raises testosterone levels in women, making them more interested in sex.
Men who have unprotected vaginal sex with women actually give some of their testosterone to their female partner. In return, they receive prolactin from vaginal secretions, enough to cause a feeling of bonding with the woman.
Typical Consequences of Testosterone Levels
- Men who have low testosterone levels, tend to gain weight and lose muscle. They may also have difficulties with eye-hand coordination, short-term memory, and focus.
- Men who have slightly higher than normal testosterone levels tend to get higher blood pressure and are more prone to having heart attacks.
- Men who have the highest testosterone levels are more likely to get into fights, have accidents, smoke, and catch sexually transmitted diseases. By the time a man reaches age 45, however, low testosterone is a lot more likely to be a problem than high.
Should low Testosterone Levels be Treated with Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Testosterone replacement therapy is not exactly new. The ability to give men injected testosterone stirred a sensation in the medical world way back in the 1940’s.
But before you shoot off to the doctor and demand testosterone now (or, worse, you try to purchase it from online foreign pharmacies), it’s important to confirm that you have low t and that there is not some treatable health condition causing it.
The Pituitary Gland
Sometimes the problem that causes low testosterone levels is in the pituitary gland of the brain. Injury or overexposure to heavy metals can cause this gland to lose its ability to control the production of two “female” sex hormones, known as luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
The male body makes these hormones in small amounts to help sperm mature in the testes. If the brain loses the ability to “turn off” FSH and LH production, they can trigger the production of estrogen. About 1 in 500 men has this condition.
High Blood Iron Levels
Another possible cause of low t is high blood iron levels. About 1 to 2% of men of European ancestry carry one or more genes for a condition known as hereditary hemochromatosis, that causes accumulation of iron in the bloodstream and in tissues.
The excess iron interferes with the ability of testosterone to bind to a carrier protein known as sex hormone binding globulin, and testosterone does not travel from the testes to the penis. One of the more disconcerting effects of this condition is shrinkage of the penis.
Excess Body Fat
And sometimes the problem is fat. Fat cells produce an enzyme called aromatase. One of the functions of aromatase is to convert testosterone into estrogen. Lower testosterone levels lead to lower muscle mass. Less muscle leads to burning fewer calories which increases the activity of fat cells, which in turn churn out even more estrogen.
Although weight gain is known to cause low testosterone levels, is unfortunate that low testosterone levels also cause weight gain.
What’s a Man to – Hormone Replacement Therapy Perhaps?
Testosterone replacement therapy is really something you need to discuss with your doctor. But there are some simple steps any man can do to minimize testosterone problems:
- Lose weight. More specifically, lose fat. Losing enough fat all-over to lose it on the buttocks is the surest way to stop production of estrogen, since the fat pads on the buttocks have 10 times as much aromatase as fat elsewhere on a man’s body.
- Stay regular. The liver breaks down estrogen and sends it into the bowel to be flushed away. There are species of bacteria that live in the gut, however, that reassemble the estrogen and send it right back into the bloodstream. The more you flush, the less estrogen goes back into your bloodstream.
- Avoid binge drinking. Anything that paralyzes your liver raises your estrogen levels.
- Take chrysin. This is a plant chemical found in passionflower. It helps keep your liver from breaking down testosterone. It won’t increase testosterone production, but it will help you keep the testosterone you already have.
How to Test Testosterone Levels
It is very easy to track your progress in managing your testosterone levels. Just see your doctor about a blood test. Testosterone is measured from a blood sample that can be drawn at any time of day, whether or not you have been fasting.
Your doctor can also write an order for the lab to measure testosterone along with any other blood tests you have, without need of drawing blood a second time.
If all else fails, then try testosterone replacement therapies. Discounted prices for this run about US $70 for an injection or US $10 per patch, sometimes used daily.
BY ROBERT RISTER | 50ish Site Contributor
Robert Rister is a senior health writer here at 50ish.org